I have some lengthy posts in the chute for future appearance, having wasted Tuesday writing on things that were not my November novel, so I intend seriously to keep this one brief. The purpose, after all, behind this post is short and simple — liberty.
Today is Veterans Day, and I know that Facebook and other resources will be fraught with sentimental expressions of civilianly debt to those who are and have served in the nationʼs armed services. I share the sentiments, fully and unashamedly. My father fought in World War II, an uncle in Korea, friends in Vietnam, and former (and probably future former) students in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other less combative fronts. I am a lifelong civilian, having with a fortunate number in the lottery ducked the draft in 1971, and I realize what others have done for me.
Citizens do owe our fighting men and women profound and unpayable debts (perhaps like the national one that our Constitution, in black and white — Article 1, section 8 — literally permits). In times of national emergency or warfare, the armed forces defend the very existence of the country and the life of every ordinary citizen. Without soldiers, sailors, flyers, marines (and any other form of fighter I have overlooked with apologies) we would not as a nation probably exist today. Those who have paid and may, today or any day, sacrifice the ultimate gift of their own lives deserve eternal honor, whether the conflict in which they died was just or unjust, valid or invalid, won or lost (for after all, a warrior, a member of the armed services, surrenders at least a big portion of his or her right to choose and judge the justness of the fight into which he or she is ordered). That willing suspension of disbelief and personal freedom (more than the threat of my own extinction, truly) is what most terrified me at the prospect of my own drafting, so I acknowledge another kind of courage our military men and women must undertake.
Simply: thank you, veterans living and dead, and all those serving today and willing to fight in the future. (Itʼs too little, too light, too easy, but also too true.)
On the other hand (this is me speaking, after all), militarizing our society and civilization — as too many maudlin and military-worshiping statements today will seem to suggest, sadly — is not desirable or admirable. Like my own father, an American warrior seeks the day when she or he can again resume civilian garb and demeanor and return to the regular and noncombative life and duties of a citizen. Even the career soldier must adhere to the principle of one day putting down the weaponry and removing the uniform. Why? The freedoms for which our armed personnel so willingly fought and fight and so deeply sacrifice are found only in civilian life, the true and genuine existence of any citizen. To join the armed services is to surrender much of those freedoms, after all. That is what makes a soldierʼs life one of sacrifice, of duty, and we hope, of honor. The military is an unfortunate extreme which we are driven, forced, to utilize when our society is pressed against the wall and can discover no other alternative* but that recourse to humanityʼs darkest and most despicable drives which make all sane persons shudder, horrified. War is the unnatural state one unwillingly endures in extremis only to reestablish and ensure lives of peace to oneself and to posterity.
Please let us honor our fighters, living and dead and yet to enlist, without surrendering to a militaristic mindset that denies the full fruition of freedom in ordinary civilian life. None of our veterans or soldiers should have to have died in vain.
Long live liberty!
* (All praise and honor to him or her who can devise such options!)